A guard, Ohio native, Watts was a 60-minute guard in football for the North Carolina State Wolfpack in 1946, '48, '49, and '50. He earned All-Southern honors three years was all-state four years and gained All-American honorable mention honors three times. Bill Stern named him to Look Magazine's All-American defensive team after the 1948 season and he was similarly honored by the United Press. Watts was particularly noted for his defensive play. Wallace Wade, head coach at Duke University, awarded Bernie honorary letters three years running because he spent so much time as the "fifth man in the backfield." In 1946 he played on the Wolfpacks' Gator Bowl team that lost to the powerful Oklahoma Sooners.